Am­bas­sadors in dis­guise

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION -

This prov­ince’s nat­u­ral and pris­tine beauty is rea­son enough to want to leave the cities and run for the Long Range hills, but the warmth and over­all laid-back na­ture of its peo­ple is an even greater draw­ing card.

New­found­lan­ders them­selves are their own great­est am­bas­sadors, and there are some who have had the op­por­tu­nity to ex­tend their reaches be­yond the gulf to share their good­will. Among these are Ray John­son, Wayne Chaulk and Kevin Black­more of Buddy Wa­sis­name and the Other Fellers

I have had the plea­sure of meet­ing these three gen­tle­men on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, the most re­cent be­ing dur­ing their 2011 Arts and Cul­ture tour. The show this year, by the way, was the best I’ve seen in years — a two-hour ex­pres­sion of the diehard New­found­lan­ders they truly are, as I have come to learn.

I can’t re­mem­ber the first time I heard the “Boys” per­form, but I do re­mem­ber that hear­ing them made me think about why I love this place so much. Their reper­toire is all en­com­pass­ing. Through mu­sic, com­edy and recita­tion, they de­pict ev­ery as­pect of New­found­land life, then and now — in­clud­ing the heart­break of those who have had to leave their beau­ti­ful prov­ince to find work. It is no won­der that when Buddy Wa­sis­name and the Other Fellers go to the main­land, New­found­lan­ders come rush­ing out of the wood­work to the near­est con­cert venue hop­ing for a lit­tle taste of the home they miss so much.

I made sure that I in­tro­duced my kids to the Boys at a young age. Ini­tially, fam­ily road trips in­volved the play­ing and re­play­ing (ad nau­seam) of Fred Pen­ner and Sharon Lois and Bram tapes. But as the kids got a lit­tle older, I grad­u­ally weaned them off of those and re­placed them with the Buddy Wa­sis­name and the Other Fellers. They be­came our main source of en­ter­tain­ment.

One sum­mer when we drove to Montreal to visit my fam­ily, Ray, Wayne, and Kevin kept us com­pany on the cas­sette player the whole way. While we were there, my kids in­tro­duced their main­land cousins to the Boys. They were all im­me­di­ately hooked. One of the cousins ended up per­form­ing a lip-sync ver­sion of ‘Chain­saw Earle’ for his high school English class. It was a huge hit. How could it not have been?

Their work has been shared and ap­pre­ci­ated far be­yond the wa­ters of this coast­line by trans­planted New­found­lan­ders as well as by peo­ple who have never lived here but who have had a taste of what it would be like if they did. Wayne and Kevin told me a story of a cou­ple liv­ing in ur­ban On­tario who abruptly de­cided to pack it all in and move back to New­found­land when they rec­og­nized, af­ter hear­ing one of the Boys’ songs, that they were “caged like a rat on the 15th floor.”

In fact, Buddy Wa­sis­name and the Other Fellers’ record­ings have been heard and en­joyed around the world — they have boosted the morale of the crew mem­bers of a Cana­dian naval ship as they sailed the Adri­atic Sea, and helped raise the spir­its of a young boy in Nova Sco­tia who was hos­pi­tal­ized af­ter a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent. There are, in fact, count­less sto­ries of the warmth and ap­pre­ci­a­tion many peo­ple have ex­pressed over the years with re­gards to how their lives have been touched by these three gen­tle­men.

In­deed, Ray, Wayne and Kevin are among our most fa­mous New­found­lan­ders. Per­haps they could be con­sid­ered as icons wor­thy of a triad of au­to­graphs framed and mounted on the wall. But I see them pri­mar­ily as New­found­lan­ders — New­found­lan­ders with voices that have been heard spread­ing the word that this is a place rich in beauty, her­itage, and pride and a prov­ince whose peo­ple hold fast to their ties re­gard­less of where they hang their hats.

Rita Rassenti Payne writes from Pasadena. She can be reached at ri­tael

lenpayne@gmail.com

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